Naked Science Forum

On the Lighter Side => That CAN'T be true! => Topic started by: chris on 17/06/2017 10:18:49

Title: If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
Post by: chris on 17/06/2017 10:18:49
Rathi is wondering:

If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?

What do you think?
Title: Re: If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
Post by: evan_au on 17/06/2017 13:21:08
We humans have a mental story of our life. We have difficulty remembering and retelling events that happened before we developed language (unless someone else told us the story).

However, the basic reflexes that we learned as toddlers - how to move arms and legs and recognize faces, sounds and smells lives on into adulthood, in the form of synaptic connections in the brain.

There are critical development phases in vision, hearing and language development; if sensory input is deprived during this essential period, a child will not be able to develop that sense fully, even after sensory input is restored. The input must govern neural connections, programming and pruning of neural circuitry in the developing brain and nervous system.

This is vital thinking circuitry that develops before language develops - some of it is a prerequisite for language development.

In the past, some countries did not have a programme to diagnose and treat deaf children; there were no cochlear implants, hearing aids, or schools teaching sign language. In children with total hearing loss, spoken language did not develop, but they got by with demonstrating what they wanted. They were obviously thinking and remembering, but not expressed in language as we know it.
Title: Re: If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
Post by: Kryptid on 17/06/2017 20:56:13
Babies don't have language but they most certainly know what they want (or don't want).
Title: Re: If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
Post by: SandraH155 on 19/06/2017 12:42:18
On the subconscious level.
Title: Re: If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
Post by: evan_au on 19/06/2017 22:13:00
Quote from: OP
If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
This presumes that if language exists, you can think.
One patient "HM"  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus#Theories_of_hippocampal_functions)with epilepsy had an operation to remove his hippocampus.
They gradually realized that he had lost the ability to form new memories (this was how they discovered this essential function of the hippocampus).

Because he had learned language before the operation, his ability to speak was unaffected.
However, if you met him 5 minutes later, he would have no idea who you were.
Because he could not hold any new ideas, he could not really do anything new or discover anything new, avoid a danger that he had previously met, or learn from experience. These are all characteristics that we associate with "thinking".

So you can have language without thinking or learning, so the two are not inseparably linked.
Title: Re: If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?
Post by: puppypower on 23/06/2017 12:10:15
Rathi is wondering:

If languages didn't exist how would organisms think?

What do you think?

I have done this thought experiment on several occasions, since it helps answer language type question. Picture a gathering of one person from every language of the world; 6909 languages, all assembled in a large conference room. On stage, I place a cat on a table.  I then ask everyone, one by one, what they see. Although they will all see the same cat, there will a wide range of sounds/noises each will make, to describe what they see.

This simple experiment shows that spoken language is quite subjective and arbitrary, while visual language is universal. We all see the same thing, but we then translate this common visual data into a subjective and arbitrary system of sounds, where it is no longer universal.

Although we can all see the same cat, regardless of our spoken language, it is hard to transfer what we see, directly to another person. It is not like humans are blue tooth connected allowing direct visual data transfer. Sight is universal, but it is also very personal. Spoken language, which is subjective and arbitrary, in terms of the sounds, nevertheless allows us to transfer what we see. However, there is loss due to the subjective nature of spoken language.

A good example of this is in politics. Politicians are good with language. Both political parties can see the same data, but based on language they may reach different conclusions due to the subjective nature of language. Lawyers who are also good at language, can make the innocent look guilty and the guilty look innocent. Writers can use language to  create historical fiction, which is a blend of visual verification and subjective enhancement.

If we were to lose language, we could still think in a universal visual way. The problem is you would not be able to transfer this to others, unless you develop the ability to read and write to other minds. Before language, a person could still invent things in their own mind. They might even be able to use their hand-eye coordination to make a prototype of what they visualize. Others would have no clue, until they see the prototype being fabricated and appearing like magic into reality, all without language. Others could use their own visual cortex to copy, build and extrapolate. If there is a break in the visual chain, the invention might be loss. Apprenticeships became useful; master/student as a way to maintain the visual chain.